Classy Contender or …..?
By Kim Sanford
We’ve all seen and heard them…maybe even, God forbid, BEEN them…the people who make everyone else cringe when their rig is seen pulling onto the grounds. Their reputation often proceeds them because the equine community is the embodiment of the adage “it’s a small world”. We horse people “know” each other, it is a given. How well we actually know one another can be debated but our behaviors, especially at a horse show can set the tone for how we are perceived going forward. It doesn’t take long before show management, exhibitors, and staff know who will be the first to have complaints; usually about several issues over the course of the event, be slow to settle their bills at the end of the day, not like the judge, “bending” the rules…you get my drift. Every competitor who comes to a show or an event leaves an impression, good or bad. Of course the same people will usually be guilty of multiple instances making life in the show office difficult. So when you go to an event or show, do you behave as an appreciative guest, or as a spoiled prima donna, leaving a mess, complaining, and generally revealing your lack of good manners?
Horse shows attract an array of individuals whose personality traits run the gamut from gloriously positive to downright soul sucking negative. Thankfully the vast majority of folks fall more toward the positive end of the spectrum but as is often the case, the ones behaving badly create a stressful atmosphere that may be difficult to deal with. Both types of individuals are remembered for their attitudes and are quite often the reason we have to deal with the stereotypes created by those behaviors…which one are you?
As an announcer I have seen and heard much over the years. It is almost as if I am invisible because I overhear a lot of conversations that if the people talking were paying attention I definitely would not be privy to. Most of the time it is nothing but gossipy, back stabbing, and just mean spirited commentary. We all get into the gossip from time-to-time (kudos to those of you who rise above it, you are truly rare indeed) and I love hearing the “poop” as much as the next guy…but seriously, when you come to the horse show it is best to have a positive attitude and maintain it throughout the day. Without fail I hear complaints about the event, other exhibitors, etc. on any given show day. On the ride home is where you can vent your frustrations or bask in the “glory” of the day’s successes to your heart’s content.
Running an event whether it is a horse show, trail trial, speed event, etc. requires a venue and it is not cheap. In fact nothing about putting on any event is inexpensive. As exhibitors we need to remember this. Exhibitors need to think along these lines is because equestrian activities are susceptible to things like taxes, insurance costs, loss of land that is available for our use due to the population growth, and other less readily apparent factors. The point I want to make today is that if we are all about complaining instead of helping (if only by having a positive attitude at the very least), the places we enjoy will disappear; and you can absolutely count on that. If you are interested in showing you need to take this to heart. Remember, the smaller, local events are where riders and horses begin and hone their skills. We horsemen NEED them to survive and being a “classy contender” goes a long way to helping them stay afloat.
One of the biggest complaints heard in and around the show office is how expensive it is to enter and show. Yes, yes it is, but there are unavoidable costs to being able to show that need to be covered. Too often, whether it is concerning board, lessons, etc. of the cost of showing, it seems there is an unspoken attitude that professionals are somehow expected to subsidize our hobbies by constantly giving everyone “breaks” on the costs of participation. No one likes a profiteer but since when did having a profit motive become a bad thing? Shopping around for good value is desirable but please be aware of what true VALUE is. I wish I had a dollar for every instance where someone is trying to get something from a hard-working professional for nothing or next to it and when told no they bash that person/business. Shame on you.
All too often shows, especially the smaller, local ones are run solely on volunteer labor. Thank God for those individuals who willingly take the job of running these events quite often giving up time they could spend in other ways. Sadly, year after year, it tends to be the same core group of volunteers who take on the huge task of putting together a show that people will want to come back to regularly. Nothing is more discouraging after putting in hours of your time in all kinds of weather and dealing with the inevitable “hiccups” that occur, than to be met with complaints from people who just showed up to ride. It can also be off-putting to everyone at the show to have the announcer calling for help with set up of the courses only to have no one step up but the same, constantly faithful, volunteers ready to help. This is quite prevalent especially when we are talking about club run shows. Everyone has an opinion on what should be done but when it is time to invest some sweat equity….crickets. No one is saying that constructive criticism is not welcome, but timing and delivery should be taken into consideration.
Another thing I see is exhibitors who arrive at the grounds, are there for the duration and then leave a mess for someone else to clean up. The mindset should be that you are a guest and need to leave your spot as you found it or better yet, cleaner. Show staff really should not have to anticipate cleaning up around the area you were in with horses tied to the trailer. Unless you are actually paying for cleanup services the manure and any other trash needs to leave with you or be put in the appropriate receptacles/areas. Please do not treat the grounds with disrespect.
Last but not least are the people with tack changes who make the class wait for them while they take their time or are unorganized and unprepared to make those changes in a timely manner. It is rude and inconsiderate because tack changes are a courtesy that are extended to the exhibitors and it should be respected. Usually it is one person/group who we can count on do this sort of thing show after show. Having your equipment at the gate and ready to change is appreciated by everyone at the show…exhibitors and staff. It is not enough to let the office know about your needs, you have to be prepared to get it done and in the ring efficiently. By the way, tack changes need to be done immediately after the concluded class, no one should be sitting around waiting until just before the next class is called before they start adjusting equipment. Please for all our sakes…BE READY WHEN YOUR CLASS IS CALLED.
So please strive to be the classy contender and not the person everyone hates to see pull onto the grounds. Courtesy and patience is greatly appreciated at the office, in the barns, on the grounds, and in the warm up rings. Support those well-run local shows; give volunteer help, sponsor a division. NEVER complain or if you must keep it courteous and constructive. Understand this…if you don’t there is a very real possibility that those shows will fold up and fade away. DO NOT TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED.